UCLA defensive players stole the spotlight from the offense during an uneven, 37-6 victory over Houston on Saturday night.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks returned a botched lateral 23 yards for the Bruins' first touchdown. Cornerback Sheldon Price tied a UCLA record by intercepting three passes. And defensive end Datone Jones, making a cameo at tight end, caught a seven-yard touchdown pass.
Price's performance was a big I'm-back moment. He missed the Nebraska game after suffering a concussion.
"I got all my wind back," Price said. "I was on a whole different level."
Price now has four interceptions this season. Before this year, his only previous one came against San Jose State in 2011.
But Saturday, "when the ball was in the air, I played it like it was mine," Price said.
The last UCLA player to intercept three passes in one game was Tevin McDonald, who had three against California in 2011.
"I used to give him a hard time about his hands, but he went up and got them today," McDonald said.
McDonald and freshman Randall Goforth also intercepted passes. Houston quarterback David Piland had thrown only one interception in 121 passes coming into the game.
UCLA did not have quite the glittery stat-fest it did in its first two victories, but it will do.
Quarterback Brett Hundley completed 27 of 42 passes and was intercepted twice. But he did throw for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back Johnathan Franklin didn't get to the 200-yard level for the third consecutive week. But he did grind out 110 yards in 25 carries. Damien Thigpen picked up the slack with 89 yards in nine carries.
Twice receivers fumbled after receptions, both times in Houston territory. But Steven Manfro had seven receptions for 78 yards and Franklin had four catches for 58 yards.
UCLA finished with 567 total yards.
"We had 567 yards of offense tonight yet we're not satisfied," Coach Jim Mora said. "That's a pretty good deal."
UCLA moves up
The Bruins moved up to 19th in the Associated Press poll on Sunday. USC was 13th.
It's the closest the Bruins have been to the Trojans in the poll since Oct. 30, 2005, when USC was No. 1 and UCLA was seventh. The Bruins lost to Arizona, 52-14, the following week.
UCLA held out three players from the Houston game for being late to meetings Sept. 9, according to people close to the program who were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Quarterback Richard Brehaut, wide receiver Ricky Marvray and defensive back Brandon Sermons dressed for the game but did not play in accordance with Mora's zero-tolerance policy, several people said.
Mora denied during the week that the three were suspended.
Brehaut played in the first two games as Hundley's backup. Brehaut was forced into the game against Nebraska after Hundley injured his right ankle. Kevin Prince was the late-game replacement for Hundley against Houston.
Sermons played on special teams against Nebraska.
Cornerback Ishmael Adams will have shoulder surgery and probably is lost for the season. Guard Jeff Baca sat out because of an undisclosed injury.
Hundley, who limped off the field at the end of the Nebraska game, appeared less mobile against Houston. He was sacked three times and finished with a minus-two yards rushing. He had 121 yards rushing, averaging 6.4 yards per carry, through the first two games.
Times staff writer Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.